Our Barbies, Ourselves

Barbie125thCareerRetroWe’ve come a long way, baby. Or should I say Barbie has come a long way from the ill-proportioned, frighteningly well-endowed, bleach-blond beach bimbo she once was to her latest occupation: Engineer. You go girl!! You show the world that you can be ANYTHING you want to be! Plastic can be molded in a million different ways and clothes can be sewn to suit any proportions these days—real or imaginary. I, for one, find it refreshing to see that Barbie is made of stern enough stuff to conquer yet another male-dominated field.

I’ve long had a theory about Barbies and the girls who play with them. That being that who we are (or aspire to be)… was probably foreshadowed in our Barbie play. The notion grew out of a simple conversation I was having one day with two of my female co-workers. Somehow the topic of Barbie came up and all of us confirmed that we’d had at least one of them growing up. Naturally, the conversation turned to what we liked to do with our Barbies when we played with them…

I proudly admitted to the fact that all my Barbie wanted to do was HAVE FUN! She partied, she LOVED working on her tan and swimming in her pool (which was actually just our kitchen sink magically converted into a sparkling oasis in which Barbie could dive and swim… naked). MY Barbie would not be confined to the pre-determined dwellings crafted for her by Matel.

The Barbie mansion could not hold her. The Barbie RV was too cramped and not NEARLY luxurious enough… and so I constantly commandeered entire rooms in our house and created elaborate living spaces for her to inhabit. Thankfully my mother put up with this. I do seem to remember my poor dad trying to get to his office in our basement and having to ever-so-gingerly tip-toe around all the precariously placed pink and orange inflatable furniture.

My Barbie also did not do any work. Don’t ask me how she had any money… but she managed. She had A LOT of boyfriends. Perhaps they sponsored her. If she DID work, it was in a fashion boutique where she spent most of the time trying on the clothes instead of helping customers. In fact, looking back on it now, my Barbie was a little bitchy, somewhat lazy, completely self-absorbed and truth be told, probably a bit of a tramp.

One of my co-workers—let’s call her Amanda (names have been changed to protect the innocent)—had a much different interaction with her Barbie. Amanda’s Barbie was what I would call a little Worker Bee. Amanda dressed her in gray business suits and sent her to work in an office. All Amanda’s Barbie did was work. Amanda even cut up Barbie-sized squares of paper that she would feed into a miniature typewriter!! And all I could think of while she was telling me this was: She thought THIS was fun!?!?! How in the #@$% could this be fun??? But it was what Amanda liked to do with her Barbie.

When I inquired about possible boyfriends for her Barbie (I’d be remiss if I failed to mention Ken) she said that she didn’t have any Ken dolls. But she WOULD occasionally borrow her brother’s G.I. Joe doll and Joe, as if on a covert mission, would quote: “infiltrate the Barbie mansion.” Nice. It’s good to know that even Worker Bees like Amanda like to have fun. Even if it IS on the down-low, after a long, hard day at the office.

The other co-worker, let’s call her Lisa, technically HAD a Barbie to play with. But she didn’t really LIKE her Barbie all that much. Rather she tortured her Barbie from time to time. She would cut off all her hair, strip off all of her clothes, grab her by her teensy plastic foot and swing her around and around the room until she went flying into the wall.


The most fascinating part of this colorful dialogue was the concept of our “Barbie play” amazingly hinting at the kind of women we’d each grown up to be. Thus my theory was born: What little girls do with their Barbies can offer a fairly accurate glimpse into the personalities of the women-in-waiting.

Now, I am NOT admitting to being a grown-up “bitchy, lazy, self-absorbed tramp”… though some may beg to differ. But I definitely DO like to have FUN above anything else. To me, work is a necessary evil and a means to much more important aspirations like partying, vacationing, shopping and working on my tan.

Some people, like Amanda, LIVE to work. And Amanda, to this day, remains one of the most devoted, hard-working employees I know. She put herself through school while working full time, earning not one but two degrees and has climbed the ladder in her organization. Most importantly, she is completely happy and fulfilled as that person.

Though I’ve lost track of Lisa over the years, when I knew her she was a dedicated athlete constantly railing against typical female stereotypes. She believed that women can do ANYTHING that men can do and to indicate otherwise got under her skin like nothing else. She valued fairness and equality in all walks of life and her work and leisure remained consistent with those beliefs. I doubt that she’s changed.

So perhaps it is a stretch, my theory. But I believe I’m on to something. If only I could find a generous benefactor to grant me the financial resources for the necessary research. I could quit my job and travel the globe interviewing women everywhere to obtain their stories. Naturally, this endeavor would require me to do quite a bit of socializing and patronizing lavish resorts along the way. I’d then publish my findings, resulting in a best-selling book, thus allowing me to fully retire before the age of 40… making way for nothing but F-U-N.


18 thoughts on “Our Barbies, Ourselves

    • Oooooo… that is a DEEP one, Stephanie. I have NO IDEA what that means!?!? Other than you’re like my friend Lisa… stiking out AGAINST the pre-conceived societal norms that our world thrusts upon us as young girls. You were too smart for all that #$@*! Haha 😀

  1. I must tell you that your mother (that would be me) had a Barbie in the 50’s. That was when she was “born”. She was shaped like a pre-teen with little boobs and a thicker waist. She was very “normal” looking. It’s too bad that MEN (I assume) did the permanent damage of reconstructing her into the shape she is today. Shame on them or whoever is responsible. Also, I didn’t know that the HUGE Barbie Van was too confining???? I even cut little rugs and blankets for Barbie and Ken! That would be for AFTER they were married of course! :O) I mean, it WAS the 70’s/80’s and we were very conservative then.

  2. Love this post! I have 5 sisters and each of us had Barbies and we definitely did different things with them, but my favorite Barbie story has got to be that my daughter once had a Barbie we renamed Bertha Big-Butt… somehow even though she was an authentic Barbie none of the pants or skirts fit over her birthing-hips. She was defective, and our favorite one to play with! 🙂

  3. Ha! – loving your post:) My barbies partied in my bedroom, played house in the living room and worked it in the sand box with the sand toys and tonka trucks! The miles those girls put on throughout the years and the traveling to many States. Have a Great Day!

  4. I still have my Barbies! They are a little messy though. My kids played with them and my grandson (yes grandson) played with them when he was younger. When I was young I would cut their hair and try to style it. Of course I ruined them. 😦 If I could afford it I would collect the fancy ones now. They are all so pretty. I always thought that I would look, dress and be like a Barbie when I grew up. That sure didn’t happen. I just knew I would wear those cute shoes and have dinner parties. No didn’t happen. My mom sewed cute little clothes for them. I have even made some. But I couldn’t sew a dress for me if I had too. I think my Barbie play was a lot like yours. Can’t say my life turned out that way though.

    • OH I am so glad!! I’ve been a MAJOR slacker with this effort lately. Planning on posting soon a bit of the explanation as to why. I’m so glad you enjoyed the Barbie story. People seemed to enjoy it and that makes me sooo happy! 😀

  5. Smiling broadly and laughing out loud. Excellent article. One of your best!!!!

    Going in I was afraid it was going to a Lisa Simpson-like feminist rant.

    Oh, and I think you might be onto something with the idea for your next career move. I’m sure Lee will enjoy the travels and being a house-husband. 😛

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